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Early Ed: Mining 'The Nation's Report Card'

Published:   November 29, 2011

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” is a nationally administered math and reading test that we discuss frequently on Early Ed Watch. The 2011 NAEP scores, which were released earlier this month, showed small improvement in 4th grade math, but no statistical improvement in reading.

There is much more to the data than the measure of how many kids are proficient in math and reading, however. The NAEP scores tell stories about children on free and reduced-priced lunch, students across different geographic areas and students who are reading at high or low levels for their age.

For this podcast, Maggie Severns spoke with Jack Buckley, commissioner at the National Center for Education Statistics, the center which administers the NAEP test. He took Early Ed Watch on a tour of the data from the most recent NAEP scores. Among the highlights is a trend that Buckley says suggests that students who are both at the top and bottom of their grade level may be improving—a finding contrary to the notion that No Child Left Behind has led teachers to focus on low-performing students at the expense of high-performing ones.

“We can report on whether there is any growth among our high-performing students and among our low-performing students,” commissioner Buckley explained, “and one thing that we find in grade 4 in math in 2011 is statistical increases not only at the mean but at the 90th percentile, at the 75th percentile, and even at the 25th percentile. So our lower-performing students and our higher-performing students are experiencing growth.”